The IRS and Security Summit partners are urging tax preparers and taxpayers to take steps to protect personal data to strengthen expanded efforts by federal, state and tax industry leaders against identity theft and refund fraud.
As part of “National Tax Security Awareness Week,” Dec. 5-9, the IRS, states and the tax community sent out a series of reminders around security to taxpayers and tax professionals as a part of the ongoing Security Summit effort.
Security Reminders for Taxpayers
The IRS and its partners remind taxpayers that they can do their part to help in this effort. Here are tips you can pass along to your clients, and also use in your own firm and lives:
- Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files, such as tax records stored on your computer. Use strong passwords.
- Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations, such as your bank, credit card company and government organizations, including the IRS. Do not click on links, or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
- Protect your personal data. Do not routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure. Treat your personal information like you do your cash; don’t leave it lying around.
How Tax Preparers Can Help
Tax preparers are critical and valued partners in the tax administration process, and they have an important role to play in helping prevent identity theft. Tax preparers should review their own security features. The IRS has updated Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, to help provide an easy checklist for you to review and update your security plan. Tax preparers can also share Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers, with clients to help raise awareness about important security steps.
See the IRS Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself page for information about this campaign and additional security information.
More Safeguards Planned for 2017
Many of the “trusted customer” features for 2017 will not be visible to taxpayers, but will help the IRS and states continue to make improvements in detecting fraudulent identity theft returns and protecting taxpayers. Highlights include:
- The tax industry will provide information to strengthen the authentication that a tax return is being filed by the real taxpayer.
- The tax industry will share information, extending more identity theft protections to business filers and individuals.
- More than 20 states are working to create a program to flag suspicious refunds before being deposited into taxpayer accounts.
- The Form W-2 Verification Code initiative will expand to 50 million forms in 2017, up from 2 million in 2016.
- The software industry will continue to enhance software password requirements – providing additional safety prior to filing.
For all “National Tax Security Awareness Week” information, visit the Security Summit page on IRS.gov.